Unbound Education Standards Institute Teacher Preparation Practitioners Team Time

In mid-February, we were fortunate to spend a powerful week at UnboundEd’s Standards Institute with 1,200 educators from across the country. UnboundEd is an organization that is “dedicated to empowering teachers by providing free, high-quality, standards-aligned resources for the classroom” through online resources and immersive in-person trainings (Standards Institute).

Educators unpacked the details of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) to better understand how to provide high-quality experiences for all students. We were challenged to look at what is currently accepted as “growth” in our students and to ask ourselves, Is that growth putting all students on track for college and career readiness? To that end, much of the week was spent examining the intersection of explicit equity with the Common Core State Standards.

Recognizing that this work begins well before folks become teachers of record, teacher preparation practitioners attended to learn from UnboundEd and from one another. With faculty and staff from American University, Teacher Preparation Inspection (TPI-US), California State University — Bakersfield, TeachingWorks, Texas Tech University, U.S. PREP, Urban Teachers, National Center for Teacher Residencies (NCTR), Saint Paul Public Schools, Louisiana Tech University, University of St. Thomas, and Relay Graduate School of Education, we processed our learnings and experiences to determine what next steps we wanted to take within our respective programs. Specifically, we asked ourselves, Based off of our Standards Institute learnings and experiences, what actions will we take to improve candidate training in our program? Program leaders considered many aspects of their work such as coursework, equity, teacher educator colleagues, observation tools, performance gateway assessments, and candidate content training.

After our first experience at Standards Institute in the winter of 2018, we scrutinized a course that we have co-taught in the past, EDUC 250: Teaching and Assessment, through a new lens. In thinking about the course learning outcomes for our residents, we realized that the standards needed to be at the center and that explicit connections to educational theory and equity needed to be made. As a result, the course now focuses on deepening residents’ understanding of the structure of the standards, the shifts in the standards, the study of high-quality, standards-aligned curricula, and how these three pieces each intersect with equity. Additionally, throughout the course, residents now gain an understanding of the rigor in the standards by cognitively engaging with the work that their future PK—12th grade students will be completing.  This means residents “do the work.” For example, residents solve mathematical word problems with various methods or annotate and analyze grade-level complex texts, in addition to internalizing lessons from standards-aligned curricula.

As we prepare teach EDUC 250 this summer, much of our learnings and experiences from Standards Institute remain in our minds.  To continue to refine the course, we would like to step back and reexamine the degree to which the course outcomes are being met through the current learning experiences.  What is our evidence?

Unbound Ed summarized the Standards Institute beautifully by stating, “This is what it takes to do this work: all of us, coming together, to push on the system and provide better for our kids before more students walk across the stage unprepared for life.” We’d like to adopt this charge moving forward in our work with PK—12th grade and graduate students too.